Why you have pain in your back

The latest research in pain shows that it is more of a signal by the brain than something is not working properly in the body. In short, pain in the body works very much like the red engine dashboard light in a car. When the engine is not functioning properly then the light on the dashboard lights up. When it lights up we naturally assume something is wrong with the car, therefore we take it to the mechanic, they help fix the engine and that stops the red dashboard light.

When you suffer from back pain it is the same thing – the red dashboard light is in the back. To fix the light, we have to fix the engine. The engine is the whole body. In the past many sufferers from back pain have thought that their problem is in the lower back, and most of the treatment has occurred here. However in as many as 75 per cent of cases the problem occurs elsewhere, other than the back. In only 25 per cent of cases does the problem actually occur in the lower back, therefore causing pain here.

Signs and symptoms

The severity of symptoms of low back pain are directly dependent on how long the underlying problem was ignored for. For example, if the cause of the back pain was a tight joint in the upper spine, and this was ignored over time by getting intermittent, short term treatment, then the signs and symptoms can be much worse.

There are three phases to the signs and symptoms a person may feel. First they may notice tightness or stiffness in the lower back (people tend to ignore this), and then the body continues to warn the person by then making the movements apprehensive. For example, a person who wants to bend forward and tie their shoelaces will feel uncomfortable to move down quickly into the position they want. This is apprehension and is usually ignored as a symptom. Finally it is pain. This is when people usually think that something is actually wrong. By this time they are further down the injury path, but the good news is it might not be too late to find a solution for them.

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This is an extract from Kusal Goonewardena’s latest book, Back Pain: Rebuild, Recover, Revitalise, by Wilkinson Publishing


Tell us, do you have pain in your back? What have you done to relieve your symptoms?